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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Two different types of liar

Pic of the MomentOne of the most dangerous consequences of this awful period in American life is the denigration of the truth, and of institutions and people who tell it.

There are two kinds of liars – fools and knaves. 

Fools lie because they don’t know the truth. 

Knaves lie because they intend to mislead.

Trump is both, because he doesn’t even care enough about the truth to find out what it is. 

He’ll say whatever he thinks will get people to believe what he wants them to believe.

Trickle Down Economics illustration from webfail
What about people like Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s point person on the Republican tax bills now making their way through Congress?

Mnuchin continues to insist that the legislation puts a higher tax burden on people earning more than $1 million a year, and reduce taxes on everyone else. “I can tell you that virtually everybody in the middle class will get a tax cut, and will get a significant tax cut,” Mnuchin says repeatedly.

But the prestigious Tax Policy Center concludes that by 2025, almost all of the benefits of both bills will have gone to the richest 1 percent, while upper-middle-class payers will pay higher taxes and those at the lower levels will receive only modest benefits. 

So is Mnuchin a fool? His career before he became Treasury Secretary doesn’t suggest so. He graduated from Yale, and worked for seventeen years for investment bank Goldman Sachs.


Nothing to see here

Trump_Russian_Cash.jpg

VIDEO: How we got here


To watch this beautiful video on YouTube: CLICK HERE. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=93&v=ZSt9tm3RoUU

New routes to renewables

Sandia speeds transformation of biofuel waste into wealth

Image result for lignin into plasticA Sandia National Laboratories-led team has demonstrated faster, more efficient ways to turn discarded plant matter into chemicals worth billions. The team’s findings could help transform the economics of making fuels and other products from domestically grown renewable sources.

Lignin, the tough material left over from biofuel production, contains compounds that can be converted into products like nylon, plastics and drugs. It is one of the main components of plant cell walls, and gives plants structural integrity as well as protection from microbial attacks.

Products made from converted lignin could subsidize biofuel production, making the cost of biofuels more competitive with petroleum. 

Unfortunately, lignin’s toughness also makes it difficult to extract its valuable compounds. Scientists have wrestled for decades with deconstructing it. As a result, lignin often sits unused in giant piles.


Gaming for mental health

First brain training exercise positively linked to dementia prevention identified
Indiana University
The current version of the “speed training” software,
now called Double Decision and produced by the company Posit Science. 
Credit: Posit Science
Aging research specialists have identified, for the first time, a form of mental exercise that can reduce the risk of dementia.

The cognitive training, called speed of processing, showed benefits up to 10 years after study participants underwent the mental exercise program, said Frederick W. Unverzagt, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine.

The proportion of participants who underwent the training and later developed dementia was significantly smaller than among those who received no cognitive training, the researchers said.

There were measurable benefits even though the amount of training was small and spread out over time: 10 one-hour sessions over six weeks initially and up to eight booster sessions after that.


Another Trump Cabinet official says Trump is stupid


Add Trump’s national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, to the growing list of high-profile people who think he’s a total buffoon.

McMaster, a seasoned combat officer in the Army, is reportedly fed up with Trump’s lack of intelligence, lack of focus, and inability to understand even the most basic premises of national security.

According to several Buzzfeed sources, McMaster was attending a private dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz, and dragged Trump through the mud, calling him an “idiot,” a “dope,” and someone with the intelligence of “a kindergartner.”

Another source who wasn’t at the dinner told Buzzfeed that McMaster has made similar comments before.

Recently, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called Trump a moron, prompting the man-baby to jump on Twitter and challenge Tillerson to an IQ test.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New developments in the Charlestown water scheme and controversial fossil fuel project

TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Image result for narragansetts and invenergy
Narragansett Tribal Council member Randy Noka at protest against
Invenergy power plant (photo from RI Future)
Delays keep piling up for the fossil-fuel power plant proposed for Burrillville, as the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) has agreed to postpone the application process another 90 days.

The latest delay came after a four-hour hearing on Nov. 27 to address four motions from opponents to amend or dismiss the $1 billion project.

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) was granted its request for updated reviews from the the Office of Statewide Planning and the Office of Energy Resources.

The motion was submitted by CLF after Invenergy Thermal Development revealed that one of the power plant’s two turbines was shut out of an annual electricity auction.

CLF and the town of Burriillville criticized Invenergy for waiting five weeks to divulge the decision by the operator of the regional power grid, ISO New England, to preclude half of the power generation from the yet-to-built power plant.

Invenergy’s failure to sell its power into the grid likely delays the completion date for the nearly 1,000-megawatt project by one year, to at least 2021. Construction can only begin if the application is approved by the EFSB. With the 90-day delay, a decision on the application isn't likely until June.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In other developments specifically affecting Charlestown, the Westerly Sun reported new detail on the controversial deal made by Narragansett Medicine Man John Brown with Invenergy. Now, it seems the water may not be drawn in Charlestown, but possibly from Crandall Farm in Westerly, owned by the Tribe for possible use as a hemp farm.
It's a distinction without a difference since Crandall Farm sits atop the same Wood River aquifer that provides Charlestown’s water. Though the Sun says this new information may call in question Charlestown’s intervenor status in this matter, I think it opens the door for Westerly to join the case.
This information, and more, comes from an October 24 letter written by absentee Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas. The letter was submitted to the EFSB by the lawyer for the elected Narragansett Tribal Council members who are challenging Thomas for leadership of the Tribe.
We also now know the potential water draw per day could run from 15,000 to 725,000 gallons. The Tribe will receive an annual flat fee of $220,000 plus the cost of water calculated at the prevailing municipal rate.   – Will Collette

Government, Trump-style


For more cartoons by Ted Rall, CLICK HERE.

Grand Theft Trump

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Replace or wait?

Study says swap all incandescent bulbs now, but hold on to CFLs
University of Michigan

light lights out GIFLED light bulbs are getting cheaper and more energy efficient every year. 

So, does it make sense to replace less-efficient bulbs with the latest light-emitting diodes now, or should you wait for future improvements and even lower costs?

A new study from University of Michigan researchers recommends replacing all incandescent and halogen light bulbs in your home now with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LEDs.

But immediate replacement is not advised for existing CFLs and LEDs, unless your main concern is helping to reduce power-plant emissions, according to the study scheduled for publication Nov. 15 in Environmental Research Letters.


Did your burger just bark?

New technique can detect impurities in ground beef within minutes

adult swim cooking GIF by HULUResearchers at the University of British Columbia have found a better way to identify unwanted animal products in ground beef.

Food science students led by professor Xiaonan Lu used a laser-equipped spectrometer and statistical analysis to determine with 99 per cent accuracy whether ground beef samples included other animal parts. 

They were able to say with 80 per cent accuracy which animal parts were used, and in what concentration.

Their new method can accomplish all of this in less than five minutes, which makes it a potentially transformative food inspection tool for government and industry.

“By using this innovative technique, the detection of food fraud can be simpler, faster and easier,” said the study’s lead author Yaxi Hu, a PhD candidate in UBC’s faculty of land and food systems.

Food fraud is the intentional misrepresentation of food products for economic gain. 


Trump insults Native Americans and veterans

Navajo leaders release statement in response to Trump’s racist remarks

Image result for Trump and NavajosA number of Native American activists and leaders condemned President Donald Trump’s racist comment during a ceremony honoring Navajo veterans of World War II on Monday.
Trump had, without saying her name, referred to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” using the name as an insult in response to Warren’s claims of Native American heritage.
Why he felt this was necessary to say while honoring Navajo “code talkers” who served in the Marine Corps and are now in their 90s is anyone’s guess.

That he did so in front of a portrait of President Andrew Jackson — who was nicknamed “Indian Killer” and signed a law to forcibly relocate tens of thousands of indigenous people from their homes — only added insult to injury.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Revenge is a poison you drink, hoping the other person will die

Revenge Is a Rotten Way to Run a Country
Image result for trump and revengeLooking back at the last tumultuous year, to me, one of the saddest aspects of the Trump candidacy and presidency is that both in part were built from one of the basest of human impulses: revenge.

We’re taught that ideally, the desire to run for office should reflect a commitment to public service. 

And we know that the reality is far too often otherwise, running to slake a thirst for power and money that overpowers the greater good.

Yet to seek elected office for revenge, to use it to get back at someone or inflict harm on them or anyone associated with them seems in some ways even worse; shabby, petty and immoral.

Examine the roots of the Trump campaign and you see two men eager to use position to take revenge, to get even for insults, imagined or sometimes real, and to lash out at perceived conspiracies against them:
Donald Trump himself…  and Vladimir Putin.


Satisfied


For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

All the crazy in just one chart

Trump promotes unhinged website as "alternative" to CNN

The site, MAGAPill, is awash in bizarre conspiracy theories, white nationalist and neo-Nazi rhetoric. Naturally, this is just the ticket for Trump who tweeted:

Wow, even I didn’t realize we did so much. Wish the Fake News would report! Thank you. https://twitter.com/magapill/status/934553287214489600 

MAGAPill created this wonderful graphic showing how just about every whacked-out right-wing conspiracy theory is interconnected. Except they are serious. Here it is:

PRIVACY: When a tinfoil hat doesn’t work

Experts call for ethics rules to protect privacy, free will, as brain implants advance
Columbia University

brain GIFThe convergence of artificial intelligence and brain-computer interfaces may soon restore sight to the blind, allow the paralyzed to move robotic limbs and cure any number of brain and nervous system disorders.

But without regulation, this flurry of innovation spells trouble for humanity, warns a team of researchers led by Columbia University neuroscientist Rafael Yuste and University of Washington bioethicist Sara Goering. In a new essay in Nature, Yuste and Goering join more than two dozen physicians, ethicists, neuroscientists, and computer scientists, in calling for ethical guidelines to cover the evolving use of computer hardware and software to enhance or restore human capabilities.


VIDEO: Three Charlestown overflights by space station in next two days

International Space Station (ISS) makes two passes tonight and one tomorrow
By Will Collette


See this video on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nShmgRiAKFU

I just renewed my free membership in NASA's listserve for emails on overflights of the International Space Station. You can sign up to get those e-mails here.

In their acknowledgement, NASA sent a table showing overflights through the end of November.

It just so happens that we will get three in quick succession starting tonight at 4:50 PM:


The National Weather Service forecasts mostly clear sky for tonight and clear sky for tomorrow so , tonight's two overflights by the International Space Station over Charlestown should be pretty easy to see. The silent majesty of its movements never get old, at least to me.

One Monstrosity Trump Won’t Want His Name On

As a developer, Trump made millions and left others with the debt...like his tax plan

Image may contain: textIf you’ve been to any of the cities graced with a Trump hotel, casino, or resort, you know that The Donald splashes his name in giant, gaudy letters across every structure he owns — preferably in gold.

Now he’s taken ownership of a massive new structure, but he might not want his name on this one. It’s Trump’s towering re-do of America’s tax law. And it’s truly golden — for the super-rich, that is.

The plan reveals in hard numbers whom this presidency really serves: 

Not just the 1-percent, but the one-tenth of 1-percenters who are multimillionaires. People like Trump himself.

First and foremost, the Trump tax plan slashes the payments that giant corporations make to support our nation. 

He claims that this will let corporate elites raise the wages of workers and create jobs, winking at the fact that, of course, the elites will pocket every dime of his tax giveaways.

And — shhhh — he doesn’t mention a little secret gotcha: A third of his corporate benefits go to foreign owners of American corporations.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Starting at the top

Related imageWhy are so many women now speaking out about the sexual abuses they’ve experienced for years? Is there anything unique about the time we’re now living through that has encouraged them to end their silence?

I can’t help think their decisions are part of something that’s happening throughout much of American society right now – a backlash against what has been the growing domination of America by powerful and wealthy men (and a few women) who came to believe they can do whatever they want to do, to whomever they choose.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy,” said Donald Trump in the infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape.

Sexual assault is one obvious assertion of dominance. Other forms include economic bullying and the stoking of bigotry to gain political power.

Trump epitomizes it all.

As a businessman he stiffed contractors, used bankruptcy to avoid paying creditors, and wielded lawsuits to threaten critics.

As a politician he gained traction by alleging Obama was born in Africa, Mexicans are rapists and murders, and Muslims must be kept out of America.


Don't look behind the curtain


For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

How Trump And Congress Are Erasing The Last 20 Years

They’re using an obscure 1990s law to wipe out regulations they don't like
By Jillian S. Ambroz

Image result for Congressional Review ActThe Republicans of the 115th Congress and Trump have not accomplished much in the way of landmark legislation this year, unless you count overturning President Barack Obama’s achievements. And on that front, they’ve been prolific.

In Trump’s first four months of office, he and Congress have completely eliminated 14 rules issued Obama—rules ranging from things like protecting Americans from coal waste in drinking water to blocking individuals with severe mental illness from buying firearms—using the Congressional Review Act.

And lest you think that headache of a legislation that had only been wielded once in 21 years before now might be going away anytime soon, think again.

Congress has targeted at least 31 rules in just 11 months, including the ones that have been nullified already, according to a report prepared by former senior staff member of the Congressional Research Service, Curtis W. Copeland. Those that have not been disapproved have been introduced to the House and await further action.

It’s not enough to just remove the rules, this Republican-led Congress and Trump want to nullify these acts completely, as if they never took place.


How much will we pay for something?

Depends on the value of what we've just encountered
New York University

shocked shopping GIFThe value of the products we encounter influences how much we'll subsequently pay for other items, new neuroscience research has found. The results point to a previously undetected factor that affects consumer behavior.

The study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shows that when we come across low-valued items, we're willing to pay more for products we later face; by contrast, when we see high-valued items, we'll pay less for products we view in the future.

"How people value an item is not a simple function of that item alone," explains Kenway Louie, a research assistant professor at New York University's Center for Neural Science and one of the authors of the paper. 

"The valuation process is inherently relative, with people valuing the same exact item more or less depending on the environment they recently inhabited. Our study shows that rewards cannot be evaluated in isolation, but instead must be viewed through the lens of the recent past."

It's been long established that our brains process information by relying on comparisons rather than on absolute judgments. 


Storm-weary Puerto Ricans are leaving their neglected island for the mainland in the tens of thousands.

And they’re pissed, spelling trouble for Republicans in Florida and elsewhere.
Maybe they ran out of paper towels.
President Trump’s handling of federal recovery efforts following natural disasters has been a study in political calculation. 

Hurricanes Irma and Harvey devastated Florida and Texas, respectively, but the government’s response was largely praised. 

The response to Hurricane Maria that leveled Puerto Rico, however, has been widely derided.

Supplies and personnel were slow to reach the island.  Volunteers who did arrive found no organized relief effort on the ground in motion and stood around for days with nothing to do. 

Today, nearly two months since Maria made landfall, most of the island remains without power, and authorities continue to struggle to bring clean water and other basic services back online.

Despite the President’s insistence everything had gone smoothly – even famously giving himself a “10 out of 10” – it was clear to anyone willing to look that the government treated Puerto Ricans suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria with much less urgency, energy and care than Floridians and Texans following Irma and Harvey. 

Trump’s blame-gaming, intransigence, and refusal to admit any shortcomings in the face of overwhelming evidence only exacerbated the situation.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Paper volleys continue on Charlestown water scheme, power plant

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

care paperwork GIFNew motions have been filed and more hearings could be scheduled ahead of the final stage of Clear River Energy Center meetings that are expected to begin in December.

The next public hearing, scheduled for Nov. 27 in front of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), will address the following motions:

request by the Tribal Council of the Narragansett Indian Tribe to join the application process as an intervenor. 

The nine-member council says it was excluded from an agreement made by tribal leaders to sell cooling water from its Charlestown reservation to Invenergy Thermal Development. 

Members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe have expressed opposition to the power plant and outrage that the water agreement was made without approval from the council.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The EFSB formal hearing in Charlestown is currently scheduled for December 5th at Charlestown Elementary. On November 20 and 21, Charlestown filed motions with the Board to (a) request a postponement, if not of the hearing, then of the related filings and testimony by the town and (b) request state funding for research and analysis of the latest filings by Invenergy. 

The town cites the fact that only recently did Invenergy file new notices and paperwork and thus Charlestown has not had a fair chance to carefully review that material. - Will Collette


Who's offended?

For more cartoons by Mike Luckovich, CLICK HERE.

Groper in Chief

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text

Get your damned flu shot. And your kids, too

Flu vaccine prevents hospitalization in children, study shows
Public Health Ontario

ted-ed animation GIF

Children vaccinated against influenza are significantly less likely to experience serious complications from the virus that could land them in hospital, new research from Public Health Ontario (PHO) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) has found.

Published in the Nov. 17 issue of PLOS ONE, the study found that young children who were fully vaccinated against influenza saw their risk of hospitalization due to influenza infection drop by 60 per cent overall. 

Even for children partially vaccinated against influenza (i.e., those who received one dose of influenza vaccine during their first influenza season), risk of hospitalization due to influenza dropped by 39 per cent.


Economics of healthy eating

When Vegetables Are Closer in Price to Chips, People Eat Healthier, Drexel Study Finds
By Frank Otto, Drexel University

vegan fruits GIFWhen healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University study found. 

The research, led by David Kern, PhD, an adjunct faculty member at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health, and Amy Auchincloss, PhD, an associate professor in the school, sought to find out the real effect that price difference has on the quality of diets in the United States. 

“We found that, on average, healthier perishable foods were nearly twice as expensive as unhealthy packaged foods: 60 cents vs. 31 cents per serving, respectively,” said Kern, lead author of the study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.  

“As the gap between neighborhood prices of healthier and unhealthier foods got wider, study participants had lower odds of having a healthier diet.”


What will it take to stop Trump from killing us all?

Experts Warn It Would Take More Than One General to Thwart "Illegal" Nuclear Strike
By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams

Related imageWhile a top U.S. nuclear military commander made global headlines after he stated plainly on Saturday that he would resist any order from President Donald Trump that he deemed "illegal," including an unlawful directive to carry out a nuclear strike, experts warn that individual objections such as that could be overcome by a commander-in-chief determined to launch an attack.

Speaking at a security convention in Nova Scotia, Canada, Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, said that his role in the event of the president ordering a nuclear strike would be to offer both strategic and legal guidance, but that he would not betray the laws of war simply because Trump ordered it.

"I provide advice to the President," Hyten answered when asked how he would respond to a nuclear attack being ordered.

"He'll tell me what to do, and if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm gonna say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' Guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated."

But is it that simple?


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Republicans in Congress Think You’re an Idiot

Prove them wrong
Robert Borosage

Related imageRepublicans in Congress must believe voters are dolts. 

Nothing else can explain the tax bill that just passed the House with 227 Republican votes and no Democrats.

No rational person would make the choices that are in this bill. 

Even granting that big GOP donors want this legislation, and that cutting taxes and spending are the core Republican mission, this bill is ridiculous.

Anyone who voted for it should be drummed out of Congress simply for the insult.

Consider the following facts:

At a time when inequality has reached Gilded Age extremes, the Republicans will give fully one-half of the tax cuts to the top 1 percent. That’s not an economic strategy. That’s a plutocrats’ raid on the Treasury.

Corporate profits are near record highs, and corporate taxes are declining as share of federal income, but Republicans hope to lard Big Business with the largest one-time cut in corporate taxes ever. 

Three-quarters of the benefits of the $1.4 trillion bill go to businesses—and those are permanent. The remainder that goes to individuals will end in eight years when Senate Republicans get done with it.

Republicans actually voted to raise taxes on 36 percent of working and middle-class families. By 2023, only 40 percent of Americans would get a tax cut. The Senate bill is worse, raising taxes on families earning $10,000–75,000 over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Citibank, Wells Fargo, Apple, Pfizer, and many others have for years successfully evaded paying taxes on $2.6 trillion in profits by cooking their books to report the profits as earned in foreign tax havens. Yet Republicans want to reward the companies for their past tax evasion and provide them a permanent discounted tax rate for tax-haven profits in the future.


MAGA gagger

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Why Donald Trump LOVES the GOP tax bill

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